toggle accessibility mode
types of trademarks

What are the Types of Trademarks?

By John DiGiacomo

Traditionally, legal scholars distinguish five types of trademarks. These are generally ranged on a spectrum from strongest to weakest. However, as discussed below, there are several other methods of distinguishing types of trademarks. And, when considering your company’s trademarking strategy, it is valuable to consider the other methods of differentiating trademark types. If you have questions about creating and registering a trademark, call the top-rated Trademark Lawyers at Revision Legal at 231-714-0100 or 855-473-8474.

The five traditional types are as follows:

  • Fanciful trademarks
  • Arbitrary trademarks
  • Suggestive trademarks
  • Descriptive trademarks
  • Generic trademarks

A fanciful trademark is typically a word mark that involves a made-up word (like GOOGLE or PEPSI). An arbitrary trademark is one that uses a word or concept — like apple — in association with an arbitrary and logically unrelated commercial product — like the manufacture and sale of computers and smartphones. A suggestive trademark is one that suggests what the product does. An example is FLOMAX which is the trademark for a medication used to treat an enlarged prostate and, thus, increase urinary tract functioning. A descriptive trademark is one that describes the product or service being sold. An example might be HAPPY NEW YORK GROCERY STORE.

Although often called a type of “trademark,” a generic trademark is not technically or legally a trademark. This is because the word or phrase does not actually function as a trademark. A trademark must identify a commercial source for a product or service. However, a generic trademark does not do that. It usually just describes a generalized type of product.

At one time in the early part of the 1900s, the word ZIPPER was a trademark. But, the word came to be used so commonly that zipper no longer identified a unique commercial source of a product, but rather came to generally identify a type of fastening device. Thus, zipper became a generic word and stopped functioning as a trademark. Eventually, the company that originally owned the ZIPPER trademark lost its trademark registration.

However, as noted above, there are many ways to categorize trademarks. For example, the “types” discussed above refer to word/phrase marks (and, as noted, a generic trademark is NOT a trademark at all).

But, a trademark can be many different things like words and phrases, but also logos, symbols, designs, and even colors, sounds, and moving images. Thus, one can say that these categories are “types” of trademarks. Indeed, when attempting to register non-word trademarks, there are specific — extra — rules that will apply to the application process. Other than generic trademarks, all of these types and categories can be registered under the federal trademark statute called the Lanham Act.

Further, academically, one can distinguish types of trademarks on the basis of origin, purpose, and use. So, one can distinguish commercial trademarks from collective marks, certification marks, and government-allowed and required marks. Thus, for example, the circle R mark that a business can use if it owns a federally registered trademark — ® — is a mark used in trade, but has a quite different origin, purpose, and legally specified use.

Contact the Trademark Attorneys at Revision Legal For more information, contact the experienced Trademark Lawyers at Revision Legal. You can contact us through the form on this page or call (855) 473-8474.

Put Revision Legal on your side